JACKSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - The Illinois Department of Public Health is encouraging residents to discuss sexual health and get tested during National STD Awareness Month in April.
According to the IDPH, nationwide, there are an estimated 19 million new STD infections annually with nearly half of all cases occurring in young people aged 15 to 24. They say Illinois ranks in the top 10 in the nation for the number of reported cases for the two most common STDs: gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Two diseases that Dr. Erica Kaufman who specializes in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, at Carbondale's Center for Medical Arts, says can be very dangerous for young women if it goes untreated.
"The infection can spread up from the vagina and cervix up into the pelvis and lower abdomen," said Dr. Kaufman. " And it can cause infertility."
"Especially when you're talking about a 19, 20 or 21 year old woman who has many years of productive life ahead. That's the last thing you want is to tell someone they have had such a serious infection that their chances for future pregnancy could be little to none."
And Dr. Kaufman says that more then 65% of teens will have had a sexual experience by the time they are in the 12th grade. With only half of those teens talking to their doctors about their sexual activity.
"Most STDs are treatable and many are curable. Early detection through testing is key, and increased screening, especially among high-risk populations, is critical to detect and treat infections, some of which are asymptomatic," said IDPH Acting Director Dr. Arthur Kohrman. "We are fortunate in Illinois to be able to provide access to comprehensive information about STDs, as well as clinics to get tested."
State health officials encourage using the IDPH HIV/STD Hotline (1-800-243-2437) for information, and utilizing clinics statewide providing STD diagnosis and treatment, if a primary health care provider is unavailable. A full list can be found here: http://www.idph.state.il.us/health/std/ClinicsCounty.htm.
The IDPH says in 2011, chlamydia cases in adolescents aged 15 to 19 accounted for 36 percent of all reported cases in Illinois, an incidence rate five times greater than the overall state rate. Gonorrhea cases among 15 to 19 year olds in Illinois accounted for 34 percent of all reported cases, with an incidence rate seven times greater than the overall state rate.
According to the IDPH, African-Americans were also disproportionately affected. African-American women accounted for half of the state's reported chlamydia infections and 68 percent of the gonorrhea infections last year; African-American men were diagnosed with 54 percent of chlamydia infections and 70 percent of all gonorrhea infections in Illinois in 2011.
For more information on STDs and where to get tested, please visit the IDPH website: http://www.idph.state.il.us/health/std/index.htm.